Taxi chase, temples, shrines, a castle, palace and Pachinko


Off to a flying start with a day for visiting temples, shrines a castle and a palace.
We were 120 seconds late at the pick-up for our tour bus along with Mohammed and his son from Bury.
The tour lady had left us a note to that effect asking us to get to the bus across the other side of Kyoto.
A swift dive into a taxi got us to the other pick-up point just on time to walk across the road to Nijo Castle and start a tour of the bits which weren’t being renovated.
They have to replace the bark roofs every thirty years and the huge wooden structures need constant attention and careful painting.
In the time of warring Shoguns and samurai warriors security was at a premium.
Completed in 1626, the castle had some sneaky but effective security measures.
The wooden floors were deliberately made to squeak – constructed so the joints and nails rubbed against each other when anyone put a foot on the floorboards above.
Any nasty ninjas or assassins were likely to make enough noise to get a bunch of samurai flying at them.
The Nightingale floors – because of the squeaky tweety noises made – were not the only security.
Nobles having an audience with the shogun had to wear super-long trailing trousers to hamper any attempt to leap on him and depose him.
Just in case someone got through samurai were hidden in a big cupboard close to the shogun ready to fly out with swords drawn if their boss clapped his hands.
A final measure was to require the nobles to trawl their way over to the old capital if Edo once a year and possibly find themselves relocated to boss another area where they may not have the same loyalties as in their former area.
To keep them even sweeter they had to leave their wife and children in Edo as hostages to ensure good behaviour.
In 1867 the shogun at Nijo returned Sovereignty to the Emperor and turned the castle over to him.
The capital was later switched to Tokyo and the castle was handed over to Kyoto City in 1939.
Up next was Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) at Rokuon-Ji Temple- a fantastic gold foil and lacquer construction on a lake which reflects back the shimmering gold.
Kyoto has 17 Unesco World Heritage Sites, more than 1,600 Buddhist temples andorra than 400 Shinto shrines so on a tour like this you can feel as if you are under the guidance of Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid.
However, instead of ‘wax on, wax off” was ‘shoes on, shoes off” going in and out the temples and shrines.
They were hugely impressive – although sometimes a mixture of the original and replicas.
Not really surprising when you add wood structures, tatami matting, fine fabrics and paper screens to naked candles and open braziers.
Plenty of fires did a lot of damage but left a lot behind.
The Imperial Palace in Kyoto is still run by the Royal household although they actually live at one of the other Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
To get in we had to fill in an application form on the bus and then line up in rows of four to be counted before being allowed in to look at the outside of the building only.
Our last tour stop was the Kiyomizu Temple where Buddhist and Shinto worship places sit comfortably side by side overlooking the city from the hills.
There was an awful lot of merchandising, prayer-selling etc going on – but probably no more than that at other big religious centres elsewhere in the world.
All this legwork needed a reward and it came in the form of a green tea ice cream on the way back down the hill.
Nice touch was an edible cinnamon flavoured scoop to help you eat neat.
They don’t half love their green tea – putting the stuff in chocolates, sweets, crepes, pancakes, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and even hot and cold tea.
It was there at lunch – used to wash down suki-yaki – chicken and vegetables cooked in a soy sauce broth at the table using a candle burner.
We are trying all sorts of food and went for ramen noodles with meat and egg in a cheap and cheerful noodle bar.
Here you order your food and drink by pushing the appropriate buttons on an electronic illustrated order point, put your money in the machine and collect tickets to present to staff.
Even cheap and cheerful was delicious.
However, the saving on the budget was short-lived as Anna realised another ambition.
Since seeing it on some TV travelogue many moons ago, Anna has hankered to play Pachinko.
This is a hi-tech, high noise level, high money-gobbling, cross between pinball and bagatelle which batters the senses and the wallet.
Machines eagerly accept notes, credit cards and Pachinko member cards in a mad mix of flashing lights, ear-battering noise and seriously addicted blokes (apart from Anna there was only one woman in there).
Anna, ever the seductress, says we can go and play on the local Japan Railway local lines and the narrow gauge Torroko Train along the river up in the other hills.
Fishing with cormorants and a visit to the film studio park to see ninjas, samurai, Geishas etc in action tomorrow.

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